In this series we are examining the latest in public relations and marketing tactics from Securus Technologies, which details their version of myths and facts surrounding their video visitation product from their perspective. In the last installment we looked at their cost analysis of remote video visitation compared to traveling to the facility and our analysis showed that either way, families pay. In this installment we look at their next two statements:
We weren’t apprised of the myth that remote visitation decreases visits. Because both Securus and their clients (county jails) reap profits each time the service is used, there is no incentive for them to place limits on video visits. Remote video visits do limit things like quality visitation, the availability of customer service when issues arise, the authority of the sheriff’s officers to address technical problems that arise during visitation. Opponents aren’t merely opponents to video visitation; typically we oppose the policy of video as the only means to visitation. We also take issue with Securus’ documented record of poor customer service, their substandard consumer product and our impression that as a company they prioritize profit over the people for whom they provide a service.
What we don’t see in their analysis is the comparison of on-site, in-person visits at the jail, versus the onsite video visits at the jail, which more and more people are being forced to use. As I articulated in my previous post (here), on-site visitors potentially incur all the same short term costs as an off-site visitor, only to see a buffered version of their loved one’s forehead.
We agree that there are positive aspects to “Expanding Visitation.” However, we strongly oppose taking away the ability of loved ones to to choose what type of visit is most appropriate for their family member and themselves. This is what effectively narrows visitation options.
Securus doesn’t counter this myth, they support it. The point here is that access to the right kind of equipment with the right system requirements and software, whether at home or elsewhere, is necessary for remote video visits. But access to such things is a challenge for many. It is true that computers can be found in places like libraries and other public spaces, but we don’t know of many that have webcams (especially a library) or the private space to have a conversation via that webcam. Most libraries have quiet policies (“use your library voice”); can you imagine carrying on a video chat at speaking volume in the middle of a library? Furthermore, many public library computers require visiting the library to make a reservation to use the computers, which adds another logistical layer of complication to using video visitation to see a loved one.
Securus’ product has system requirements that may need to be installed in order to utilize video visits, however, libraries do not allow people to update or add software to their computers. Remote visitation visitors must set up an online account that requires you to use the webcam to take a photo of yourself and your photo ID, which can take a day (or three) to approve or deny. Only after your online account has been approved may you begin to schedule visits no less than 24 hours in advance. Then you must be able to pay for the visit electronically.
Should you make the choice to give remote visitation a try, do your research. Don’t assume that because Securus told you it was possible, that you can do visitation at a library or church without first contacting those places and asking if they have the ability to conduct a video visit in their space. They can go to this link to see if the software requirements are met. Securus plainly states on a semi-hidden section of their website that “Visits are pre-paid and non-refundable” . It has been frequently reported to us that when there are issues with the system, Securus often points the finger at the county, who in turn points the finger back, leaving the consumer stuck on a merry-go-round that goes nowhere fast. If you run into problems, technical or otherwise, in a Texas jail facility please file a complaint with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards here so that there is documentation and hopefully, a resolution.